Cathie Pauley, president of the Noxen Historical Community Association, has worked relentlessly to restore the old Noxen School which serves as a community building, for more than a decade.
The group will celebrate its accomplishments and show off the building to the public at an open house today, Aug. 19.
"It's like going into retirement," Pauly said of winding down the restoration project.
The building was donated to the township by the Lake-Lehman School District in the late 1970s. After a dressmaking business moved in and out within the span of a decade, the building was largely unused throughout the 1990s.
In 1999, community members formed the Schenck Library, but the deteriorating building was becoming an issue in the township. Taxpayers were posed a referendum question on the November 2001 ballot.
"There were three choices," said Pauley. "Tear the building down, use taxpayer money to fix it up or let the historical association raise money to fix it up. Of course, the third one won."
The project has cost about $150,000 in total – all the money used for the project was generated through fundraisers, donations and grants.
From new siding to replacing windows and doors, the building has plenty of new features but still has wearing in the hardwood floors where children's desks once sat and grooves in the steps where children traveled back to class from recess.
The former school was placed on the National Register for Historical Places in Pennsylvania on May 24, 2006.
Pauley can rattle off the history of the school where she and her three sisters were students, her mother was a teacher and her father was a substitute teacher.
Pauley's grandmother, Elizabeth Engelman, lived just down the street and boarded teachers who taught at the school and men who worked at the nearby tannery a century ago.
The township was founded in 1895, six years after George Mosser bought property from Montgomery Schooley to build a tannery.
The population exploded after the tannery was completed, and a one-room school house was built in 1897 to accommodate the influx of youngsters.
The Noxen School was built in 1902 to keep up with the increasing population. An addition was completed in 1922, and the school became one of the first high schools in the area until 1951.
The Mosser Tannery brought hundreds of families to Noxen until it was sold to the Armour Leather Manufacturing in 1914. The tannery continued to operate until 1961.
Pauley thinks the decline of the tannery caused the community to slowly change into what it's become today.
"We were a thriving community," she remembered. "We didn't need anything. We had four stores, a post office, movie theaters, ball fields, hotels, boarding houses, gas stations, churches, two bars. You never had to leave town."
She said Noxen went from a place where kids could roam the woods and neighbors would check up on one another to one with huge trucks barreling down streets and strangers coming into town daily.
"Back in those days, if you were a stranger, you couldn't get through town without 17 people seeing you," she said.
Pauley thinks the old Noxen School serves as a reminder of the town's earlier years. She hopes that others, especially young people, will appreciate its history and continue to take care of the building for years to come.
"My daughter always tells me, ‘I hope the place burns down!' because she knows how much our lives revolve around it," laughed Pauley. "But she's the one who went to Harrisburg to get it on the historic register and she dresses up like the Easter Bunny for the kids and she's having her bridal shower here. I've got my fingers crossed (she'll take care of the building)."
When: Today, Aug. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Old Noxen School, School Street, Noxen
What: An Open House will be held. An art show featuring the works of Chuck Kovalick and his students will be held on the second floor. Light refreshments will be provided.
Information: Call 298-2052.